So, you’ve made the decision to start getting some exercise – that’s great! But where should you start your new journey from Couch Potato to Fitness Fanatic? In this article, I hope to help you map out a plan to get you on the road to improved health, fitness and well-being.
Step One: Get a check up. It’s an irrefutable fact that exercise is good for you. It can reduce your chances of suffering many common chronic diseases, help you control your weight, improve your general health, and give you more energy and so on. There is a long list of benefits associated with exercise but exercise also comes with some risks. Because of this it is vital that you get a full medical examination before commencing your new exercise regime. Your doctor will be able to screen you for any medical conditions which may worsen because of your new routine. It is very VERY rare for a medical practitioner to tell you not to exercise, but they may suggest certain restrictions if a particular condition is discovered – e.g. low impact exercise for morbidly obese exercisers or avoiding overhead weight lifting in hypertensives. If in doubt – get checked out!
Step Two: Decide on how much time you can realistically spare for exercise. The truth is that if you are short of time and your exercise programme becomes an inconvenience, it is very likely that your plan will be a non-starter or certainly a short runner. Calculate exactly how much time you have spare each day and look for ways to maximise that time. Are you really going to want to commute for an extra hour to get to the gym across town? Or are there better ways to use your valuable spare time? Remember it is not necessary to spend hours and hours exercising every day. 20-30 minutes, 3-5 times a week will yield amazing benefits. The average person spends 4 hours a day watching TV…you need to find less than 4 hours per week for exercise!
Step Three: Explore your exercise options. There are literally hundreds of ways for you to exercise. Some will suit you perfectly, others will be completely unsuited to your needs, your personality or your goals. You can choose from aerobics classes to weight training, from Pilates to swimming, from jogging to tennis. From the almost endless list of possibilities, choose activities which you think you will enjoy. If you have “two left feet” then maybe hip-hop aerobics isn’t going to be for you. Not a great fan of loud music, shiny chrome and mirrors? Maybe the local Fitness Studio isn’t for you. I guarantee you that there are plenty of activities out there which will suit your personality and physicality so do some research, look around and then select something you feel comfortable with and not intimidated by. The caveat is that whatever your chose, you should enjoy.
Step Four: Make a commitment. A plan is just a meaningless piece of paper unless you commit to following it. Decide on a start date for your new, healthy lifestyle and zero in on it. Make it an appointment in your diary and stick to it. Work towards it so that when you reach your intended commencement day, you are ready to start. Plan ahead for this day. Have you booked your place in the class? Bought some appropriate work out clothing? Arranged a baby sitter? Do everything in your power to make this as easy a process as possible. The last thing you want is for uncontrollable details to derail your new healthy lifestyle.
Step Five: Do it! Get off the couch, out the door and get started. Procrastination will ruin even the very best intentions. A journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step or so they say, so make that first step now. Your old life of inactivity has an inertia all of its own and it’s absolutely vital that you make a clean break from it. Put it behind you and move onwards and upwards into your new healthy lifestyle. Treat this change like a battle – attack it with tenacity and aggression and you WILL win.
Step Six: Stick with it. You’ve done the hard part – you got started. Now you need to keep that momentum and maintain your new active lifestyle. Tell your friends what you are doing, keep a workout diary, and set your self some goals. Take a look at my article “Habits of Effective Exercisers” and you’ll learn about a number of excellent strategies designed to help should your motivation levels start to wane.
Step Seven: Enjoy it! Look back on what you have achieved and take pride in it. At the very least you have broken away from the gravity of your couch and have now made moves towards a new, healthier lifestyle. And remember, it’s not a race – there’s no hurry, take it a day at a time, a workout at a time and you WILL make improvements and progress. You will have done what many people never manage to do – taken positive steps to improve your health and fitness. Good for you!